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Lola (Pizza), Michael (Wings), Mandy (Shiny), and Joe (Me) vs Nyarlathotep. Dunwich with Dark Pharaoh and Lurker. Hypnos.
(Hoo boy, am I rusty…)
The Stars were finally right, and my Cult planned a Labor Day weekend game. Except then Zebra came down with an Injury that required regular alchemical cocktails. (We told him to come anyway, as his altered mind state could probably let him SEE his Encounters. “Tell us what the Shoggoth looks like, Zebra!” “AAAAAAA!!!”) No dice. So tonight the part of Zebra will be played by…Shiny!
Shiny’s a relatively new coworker (since January) who’s cut her teeth on card games like Dominion and party games like Werewolf (or variants). She’s been looking to upgrade her classification to Board Gamer, and needed more game badges on her sash. This would be her first completely co-op game (she has played some Battlestar Galactica as well).
I gave her a few Investigators to examine and a short primer on operating them—the rest of the game we would lead by example as situations came up (although Wings walked her through a dozen game components as I was emptying contents onto the table)—so when we all “Drew 3, Pick 1”, the one she recognized was Mandy. (Not a bad first Investigator, eh?) Pizza commented on how DERANGED Lola looked (the only Investigator of his 3 picks that he never played before), and Wings got a bunch of unarmed spellcasters—Wings HATES Spells and Tomes—so I just tossed her Michael (free Tommy Guns make everyone happy!). I went with Joe over Rita (never George!) because I suddenly had gun envy from Michael (and I know Rita’s Story SUCKS against Nyarlathotep…shhh, don’t tell anyone!).
Lola started with an Elder Sign and a Voice of Ra, but Pizza is very skittish about Sanity damage, so it wasn’t until laaate in the game when he found the Seven Books of Hsan, and the Voice of Ra became Sanity-free! We often have to keep advising him to look at his cards to remind him what he has, and I tried to prod him a couple of times to USE Lola as the Actress she is: skill-swapping. Mid-game, I finally got him to look at the bottom of the Skill deck (Criminal! No one ever gets that!), and a few turns later, Lola swapped out her Speed Skill to join the Sheldon Gang! Granted, she only ever manage to pickpocket $2, but the Streets are much less boring with petty larceny options!
Michael started with a Yithian Rifle as well, so Wings was armed and happy. Eventually, a monster surprised him in the Black Cave, and a passed Horror Check would get him Spells, but a failed Horror Check would give him Bravery (great Skill for low-Will brawlers). Luckily, Michael’s a bit wobbly at Will Checks.
Mandy started with a Flamethrower, a Carbine, a Cursed Sphere, and a Credit Rating. Her first Encounter in the Woods had her tripping over an Axe. So by the end of Turn 1, Shiny was loaded up like any First Person Shooter: four weapons, same backpack. Was the game befuddled by Shiny’s unbridled optimism? No, just biding its time: Big N plays the long game.
Joe started with a Molotov, some Dusty Manuscripts, and Mental Fortitude (the BEST Skill for low-Will brawlers). That Skill saved my bacon multiple times! Joe went shopping his first turn, and ended up with a Yellow Sign medley: Throne of Carcosa, Book of the Believer, Carcosan Page. (What would YOU buy?) This would be the Unique Item to finish Joe’s Story, so I had to keep it. Joe sucks at Tomes, and the Throne is just too expensive for what it offers, so I bought the Page. It did allow me to borrow Mandy’s Carbine in a tight spot, so it was a well-used selection.
Since we were all out of practice by a few years (and Shiny was brand-new), we didn’t pop an actual Gate (or Doom Token) until Turn 4, but we did place monsters at those Gate locations. Call it the Dimensional Fractures House Rule. It let Shiny get some atmosphere and FIGHT A HOUND OF TINDALOS, ARE YOU KIDDING?! Hey, everyone’s gotta have a first fight; might as well make it memorable. It took her a little while to get comfortable with “where should my sliders go?”, but facing a Hound teaches you one the greatest AH conundrums ever: the “Fight vs. Will in Combat” Joke! But it’s better to learn that lesson with a Cursed Sphere in your pocket. Also a great time to learn why EVERYONE loves Mandy: the “Your Roll SUCKED!” reroll! Shiny’s first trophy!
Aside: Shiny owns two rescues: both completely black cats. So I gave her a Bast Token to use as Mandy’s “Special Ability Used” marker. This eventually led to that ability being dubbed as “Using the Magic Cat”. “Do you want to use my Magic Cat?” “This is the last Phase roll before the Mythos Phase: just use your Magic Cat.” Maybe it’s one word: MagiCat?
Michael was following Hypnos around, beefing up his Clues, which is when he ended up in the Black Cave and gaining that Bravery. (It was either that or falling in a Lantern-less Pit for an Injury.) The Mythos “Along Came Jones” put a free Ally at the Train Station for the first Investigator who got there: that’s Lola’s Story right there! Joe went right past the Train Station to head out of Dunwich for a Dimensional Shambler and a pile of Clues, and Lola followed him to the rails, gaining William Bain! If you want someone following your career in the Arkham Gazette, that’s the Greatest Fan you want! Although Nyarl got his parting shot at our House Rule: there were still no Doom Tokens yet in play when Bain arrived. (The game giveth, the game taketh away.) On the other hand, Mandy sought a Clue at the Silver Twilight Lodge, gaining herself a membership. The following turn, she healed up her Hound scratches; later, she came back to trade a brain for a Red Sign Spell. Still later, she…we’ll get to that.
Our first Gate was the R’lyss Gate in the Woods: it brought the second Hound, and it moved almost immediately to Mandy. Obviously, Mandy’s intense research and disruptions had gotten her spotted by the Hounds, and those canines are relentless with their intended prey. Yeah, that was their mistake: second Hound went down just like the first.
After failing to gain Corinna Jones’ assistance—stupid expensive Carcosan Page!—I moved to Wizard’s Hill…
…Zebra’s assigned task is Arkham Encounter cards, bundled in three-neighborhood decks (draw until you hit the right color, just like Gate Deck draws), each of the those four decks in one of the Professor’s Crafthulhu Neighborhood Deck Holders: Dunwich, Top, Middle(+Misk U), Bottom(+ F Hill). Dropping Shiny in the deep end, she inherited this job. We need to assign these tasks because Pizza-n-Wings’ huge round table is way too large for any human to control more than one quadrant of it. Pizza gets the Investigator cards (also in a Crafthulhu space saver!), Wings gets the Tokens (Clues, Money, etc.), and I get the Ancient One, the Monster Cup to pass, and any other Board Mechanics to track (Dunwich Horror, Activity Tokens, Rifts, etc.). I only bring this up, because I asked for a Dunwich Red card, and Shiny promptly informed me that those cards were ORANGE…meaning that I STILL stand alone in my Cult in defense of AH’s coloring scheme. “These Unique Items are PINK!” “Is this (Easttown) what you mean by Grey?” Sigh…
…and then Pizza dropped an Abyss Gate right on me…indirect Delayed lesson for Shiny. Michael was all set to follow me through the now-unguarded R’lyss Gate, but opted for a delightful trip through the City of the Great Hall of Celeano Gate (Black Cave). Michael immediately found a quick “Return to Arkham” Encounter and got our first Seal (#1).
My trip in the Abyss was less than stellar. Joe utterly failed a chance at the Psychic card, and instead ended up Tainted AND Harried! So Joe had some errands to run. Luckily, when he was so rudely displaced, a Leng Spider was left behind that never moved. (It was just waiting for me to get back!) I used my Page to borrow Mandy’s Carbine, and wrapped its legs in a tissue. (Harried, my crumpled fedora.) Since I had been leaving my Fight at maximum, relying on my Mental Fortitude to keep my brains intact during Horror Checks, I beat that Gate into submission (Seal #2) while covered in spider ichor. Then a Mythos allowed me to toss the R’lyss Gate back into the Gate Cup. So the trip sucked, but the vacation photos were excellent!
The Witch House finally opened the Lenglands Gate…seriously? Are we going to open EVERY double-Gate in the bag? Don’t get too excited: The Great Meddler managed to prevent those Gates and our monsters from matching most of the time…
…Aside: The First Player performs the whole Mythos Phase by themselves, but Shiny is an abundantly helpful and non-superstitious person. So, as Wings grabbed the Lenglands Gate, Shiny pulled out the accompanying monster. Thus comes the most priceless moment in the game:
Shiny: “Star Vampire.” (One of the worst Monsters, and Shiny has ZERO idea what she has done.)
Me: “Aw hell!”
Shiny: >blank look< “What?”
Me: “Turn him over.”
Shiny: >squealing< “IT’S HORRIBLE!”
Wings: “You don’t get to pull monsters anymore!”
And Shiny didn’t, for several turns. When I handed her the Cup for her next Mythos read, she stated bluntly, “No. I’m not allowed.”
Michael took his shot at the Star Vampire with his Yithian Rifle, but never got past looking it in the face. Wings didn’t want to lose her stuff, so I had to remind Wings what a Madness was. We let her read an Injury (Broken Back) to understand the severity of her choice, but Wings has always been a bit fearless about combat consequences. (“Polyp, Shmolyp. Where’s my Knife?!”) Michael ended up with Agoraphobia, which had him midgame bouncing out of the Asylum, sweeping a street clean, freaking out from the wide open space, and bouncing back into the Asylum.
Lola had managed to acquire a Marksman Skill (shortly thereafter feeling adventurous enough to drop his Speed for the Criminal Gang Membership), plus a Book of the Dead (IMPORTANT!) Exhibit, and rather self-sufficiently meandered in and out of R’lyeh at Independence Square without missing a step, using her Elder Sign to slow Big N’s roll a tad (Seal #3). Gradually, she traveled the length of Arkham, gaining 5+ Clues by the time she ended up at the Woods, where the Lostime Carcosa Gate had ruptured. (Another double?! If Yuggother Dimension shows up, I’m out!) Lola was eventually able to return from Another Time for Seal #5. (Sorry to get ahead there, but the paragraph was on a roll.)
Mandy returned to the Lodge to prep for getting past the Star Vampire to reach the Gate, and her Lodge buddies performed a banishment ritual for her. She chose to go to the Dreamlands over the Plateau of Leng (although both were warded by Hypnos), so every card was an option. And Shiny’s first Gate Encounter ever was……the only WHITE card in the deck. (“Green Double Zero!”) Cute, Game, real cute. Shuffle shuffle shuffle.
Eventually, Mandy returned, Sealed the Witch House (Seal #4), and removed 2 Gugs and the Wailing Writher to the Cup. Note: the Writher was our second monster in the whole game…but it was just lost waaaay up at Gardner’s Place, not affecting anyone. (Big N was probably frustrated as hell…and he let us know that shortly.)
During all that, Joe needed to be a bit selfish to reestablish his status quo. After a welcome respite in the Asylum to get all that Abyss out of his mind, a Moon Beast had trundled into the Merchant District Streets, offering Joe his last blood drop for his story. I risked it with just a .45 and a Knife (having returned Mandy’s Carbine to her.) I took that molemeat to Carl Sanford, and fulfilled my contract with my Carcosan Page (gonna miss that). Plus $15! $5 went to Lola to buy bullets for her .357 Magnum, and $5 went to Michael for Asylum bills, having spent all his starting cash on that .357. One last stop at the South Church to trade my Gate Trophy for a Blessing. (Tainted, my ruffled trenchcoat.)
Nyarlathotep had had just about enough of these stinking bothersome apes all up in his bidness: enter The Terrible Experiment. A Mi-Go, a Shan, a Leng Spider, the Knoph-Keh…and the God of the flippin’ Bloody Tongue! It certainly felt like I was not going to keep that Blessing for very long, so Joe got up from the pews and headed to Miskatonic with a knife and a gun.
I left the Mi-Go for anyone else, and started using everything I had to remove other problems. I had little chance against the Tongue, but I could use my Mental Fortitude to completely bypass any real threat of a Shan, suck up the other Horror Checks with zero Will, and dump my Fight into melee with the Overwhelmings. Everything actually went according to plan; obviously I was relying on that Blessing to carry me through. But Joe was done, and booked it back to the Asylum.
Another Moon Beast was conjured, and Pizza despises Rumors. So Lola came out of the Hospital at full strength, and dove into the fray. Fight 4, Will 2 (+ a Cross). She played it low-key and simply shrugged off the Mi-Go with just her Derringer…and that bug dropped her the Golden Sword of Y’ha-Talla! (That was the missing link.) Scooping up that blade, she drove it through the Derringer-sized bullet-holes in the Moon Beast’s mass of tentacles it calls a head. Then, leaving nothing behind, she charged at the Bloody Tongue, both guns a-blazing, using both her Passed Story (+1) and her Marksmanship (second roll came up with FIVE Successes!!) to drop that behemoth to the floor! Quickly chanting from the Book of the Dead, she cut off that abomination’s head and dragged it sloppily across campus. (GOD OF THE BLOODY TONGUE TAKEN AS TROPHY!!! IN COMBAT!!!) Eventually, she dropped it in the donation bin at the South Church (with some Deep One Hybrid’s teeth), whispered another passage from the Book of the Dead (BLOODY TONGUE REMOVED FROM THE GAME!!! ) and walked out glowing (Blessed). Most of the Skills gained were never used, but Mandy received a Will Skill, making her just that much more formidable in combat.
Then there was a strange lull in the game. A couple of Mythos that did nothing drastic, like removing monsters from the empty Sky/Outskirts or dumping 2 monsters in the Streets within walking distance of an Agoraphobic Michael with an itchy trigger finger. We started bouncing energy off some Gate Seals, giving Mandy some hope that her story might finish in her favor. She had been slowly and quietly completing her Genealogy Research Task—the End of the World is no excuse for not doing your job—which she had acquired for free at a Neighborhood Sale early on and those last Clues at the Historical Society had earned her the Fire of Asshurbanipal. Everyone paid Hypnos their respects.
We should have known better.
Nyarlathotep was finally fed up, and started forcing Merchant District Surges (both the Unnameable and the Unvisited Isle). On consecutive monster surges, ALL THREE Serpent People entered play at that neighborhood, and remained this Snake Gang that never separated, diminishing our Monster Limit. The Crawling Chaos dropped “Murderer at Large” on us: Doom Track to 9, Terror Track to 3, General Store Closed. Dunwich finally woke up, but at least its monsters had a lousy sense of direction, seeing as how none of them at the Devil’s Hopyard had any eyes (Formless Spawn, two Crawling Ones). It took some time, but eventually all three took the long way out through the Village Commons. (Three…? Uh huh. Nyarlathotep has diabolical TIMING.)
Good Work Undone. (Oh, knock it off!) Joe had just totaled 6 Clues at the Science Building, and was the only one who could just wax this Rumor NOW before it festered. But this Rumor still has an element of chance, and I’m sitting on a potential Sixth Seal. So I put it to a group vote. I think not only did we not want to get ABSOLUTELY SCREWED, but we all could have used an easy free Unique Item as a bonus. But then, just to be a jerk, the Bloated Woman blocked the Miskatonic U Streets. That pre-fight Will Check was NOT in my budget, and would have ruined the plan. So Mandy torched her for me, after having just come off of barbecuing a Mi-Go for his Fetch Stick (Magical Flamethrower). Joe convinced her to trade him her Stick, cuz she was already attached to her Sphere and Flamethrower (but you could see the gleeful greed in Shiny’s eyes. “Mine! More!”)
Every Unique Item from the Rumor has a quick story:
• Lola finally got the Seven Books of Hsan, and with Joe’s Glass of Mortlan and Dusty Manuscripts, achieved a marvelously free Voice of Ra on command.
• Mandy received the De Vermiis Mysteriis, which, after read by Lola, closed the only Gate left in Dunwich, and coincidently shut down any NEW Gate activity in Dunwich for the rest of the game. (There was still CURRENT activity to be dealt with…hold that thought.)
• Michael got the Zanthu Tablets, which could very well be the lousiest Unique Item for Wings ever. (“FIVE Spells?!”) The following turn, Brown Jenkin came after her, and instead of facing a Rat-Thing at a -1 disadvantage, she just threw the Tablets at him and told him to scram.
That’s when “Gossip Runs Wild” Headlined. Both Crawling Ones left this world, bringing out the Dunwich Horror, just before the Mythos Text required its presence to hurt us that much more. The Terror Level went up by FOUR (two Vortexed monsters and +2 on the Mythos Text), hitting 7—TWELVE Allies leaving town on the same bus!!—and Mandy failed her story, completely canceling out her hard-earned Fire of Asshurbanipal. Nicely played, Nephren-Ka. But you gave us an out: during the next turn while Clues were tradeable, Lola passed Mandy all of hers (in exchange for the De Vermiis), and that had both Michael and Mandy prepped for a Seal.
Wings went into defense mode, and suggested everyone get Blessed. But the Merchant District was clear of monsters (besides the barely-heard Forked Tongue Trio hissing in the bushes) after Joe Fetch-Sticked a Mummy. So I said go for broke: each of the girls pick a Gate and try to end this swiftly. Even then, the Father of Bats had one last hole card: the Gates were to either R’lyeh or Lost Carcosa.
Not to worry: though Michael got delayed, and the Doom Track was one away from complete catastrophe—neither Joe nor Lola had ANY Clues—Mandy was able to thread the non-Euclidean needle of R’lyeh, and Magic Cat one last time for Seal #6.
I totally forgot to score the game, but even with Big N minus Terror being 4, we were sitting on a LOT of trophies by the end, of both kinds. My conservative estimate would put us somewhere in the high teens, 17 or 18. Not too shabby for Shiny’s maiden voyage.
Shiny thoroughly enjoyed the game, Mandy, and the camaraderie, so welcome to the Carnival, new girl! (Obviously we have to play against GLAAKI next time.) Once Zebra remembers his name and home dimension, we’ll try to pull some 5-player games…give Wings all sorts of meat in the streets to steamroll.
(Aaaah…that felt good.)
I honestly never thought I would see you post a Session Report here again; I can't tell you how happy I am that I was wrong!
You are hands-down the best Arkham Horror Session Report author out there and even after so long, this one meets your usual very high standards for simultaneously being informative, intriguing, and amusing. Welcome back!